Studio Ghibli have released their first films digitally in the UK.
Digital platforms and discs have always been considered distinctly separate by certain movie collectors, as a disc is something that can be owned, whereas a digital purchase gives viewers the ability to watch a title through a specific platform, for as long as that platform exists and holds a licence for that content.
While technology and the market continue to move towards streaming as the future, therefore, Blu-rays have emerged as the vinyl of film: a physical item to be treasured.
It’s a view that Studio Ghibli appeared to share, never released any of its films on VOD in the UK, despite a growing catalogue of DVD and Blu-ray releases through Studiocanal. Now, though, Ghibli has gone digital, releasing two of their titles on iTunes: Isao Takahata’s tragic masterpiece Grave of the Fireflies and Hayao Miyazaki’s charming directorial debut, The Castle of Cagliostro.
The unexpected move arrives in the run-up to a new Blu-ray box set of Miyazaki’s movies, which is released in the UK on Monday 8th December.
Following the recent news of Miyazaki’s retirement from feature film production, it brings together all 11 of the director’s feature movies, from Castle of Cagliostro through to The Wind Rises. Alongside the individual features comes a bonus disc with the full 90-minute press conference Miyazaki gave announcing his retirement and looking back on his career, plus a specially commissioned booklet.
The collection, which is the stuff of Christmas present dreams for fans, is the first time Studio Ghibli have allowed their feature films to be released in this way.
The iTunes release, though, is an equally big first step for the studio. The two films are not available on any other digital platform, although for collectors looking for longevity of ownership, Apple’s dominance in the technology market suggests that it is arguably the most stable VOD platform around.
Will Studio Ghibli release more films on VOD (or on more platforms)? It’s not outside the realm of possiblity: the decision to release Miyazaki’s first film, particularly in the run-up to the new box set, feels like an apt start to a series, while the inclusion of Grave of the Fireflies suggests a broader scope of distribution than merely the Hayao Miyazaki titles.
If they are, it will be a slow process. Spirited Away was released on Blu-ray this week – the last of the Miyazaki titles to be released in high-definition in the UK – but the film is not currently scheduled for an iTunes release.
When contacted for comment, we were only told that it “used to be against Studio Ghibli policy” to make titles available digitally. Either way, we’ll keep you posted on any new Ghibli digital releases as and when we learn more.
What is clear, though, is that while Hayao has hung up his beard, Studio Ghibli is still looking for new ways to reach audiences. For those keen to watch – or re-watch – Ghibli films, whether it is through the Internet or a Blu-ray player, this winter just got a little bit more magical.
For more Miyazaki magic on VODzilla.co, come back tomorrow …
What Studio Ghibli films are available on VOD in the UK?
Bookmark this page for a list of Studio Ghibli films available to watch online in the UK, which will be regularly updated.
Grave of the Fireflies
The Castle of Cagliostro